Trends in Target Account Marketing

Forget about customer relationship management; these days it’s all about the customer experience, some say. No, forget about experience, it’s all about customer engagement, others argue. Whatever you call your customer marketing management effort, you can be sure somebody has a technology platform that is certain to be the magic elixir for maximum sales enablement.

CRM has been around since the mid-1990s or so. Complaints about CRM failure rates have been around just as long and don’t seem to be letting up. Now, to be fair, you can probably find just as much griping over most productivity systems, from HR automation to the granddaddy of them all, ERP.

Nonetheless, it’s apparent there’s a disconnect between the highly individualized process of sales in general and automated “relationship management.” That’s driven many companies to look beyond and focus on the customer experience, rather than the sales or marketing experience. And it’s causing some CRM companies to restyle their offerings as customer engagement platforms.

Let’s face it; definitions in this area have always been fluid. CRM overlaps with sales force automation (SFA) and so forth. Some would argue that SFA is mainly about scheduling, tracking, contact management and quotas. CRM, in this mindset, is more about marketing campaign management and keeping track of customer touch points. Both, to some degree, are dependent on lead management, so it’s virtually impossible to tell where one leaves off and the other picks up.

A good case can be made that CRM was overly focused on users of the technology platform rather than the customers they seek to serve. So we saw the rise of Customer Experience Management solutions, which purportedly provide a more customer-centric  perspective of the relationship between buyer and seller.

Even more quickly, the focus is shifting to Customer Engagement Management! SAP last year notoriously declared, “The CRM experiment has failed. Today’s empowered customer requires a new model for engagement.”

Ah, marketing! When a market segment becomes crowded, everyone wants to redefine the space. New features get blown up into new categories by newly emerging companies trying to claim a foothold, market laggards trying to break out of the pack, and market leaders trying to defend their turf. Certainly the CRM market is bloated, as are the technology solutions that vendors are peddling.

In such an environment, technology providers will vie over specialization vs. horizontal integration. I don’t want to seem too cynical, because I’m sure there’s plenty of innovation in the relationship/experience/engagement technology industry. But, customers couldn’t give a hoot whether you call it relationship management, experience management or engagement management. They don’t care whether you’re using one integrated platform or multiple best-of-breed platforms. They just want information, sales and service when and how they need it. They don’t want to have to continually educate a vendor’s different departments or functions.

Yes, the manner in which customers interact with suppliers is changing, and technology will continue to provide new ways to help meet and anticipate their needs. But there are no magic formulas; better data analytics may provide better insights into customer trends at a macro level, but it’s not going to provide a salesperson with direct knowledge of an individual prospect’s motivations and pain points.

Understanding customers on a one-to-one basis requires knowledge about what specific customers are thinking and what their needs are. It means finding the right contacts at the right level and developing account-level intelligence about those leads. The prospect surveys we conduct generate valuable intelligence on the levels that will generate that key intelligence.

SimplyDIRECT’s Trends in Target Account Marketing infographic provides insights into how your marketing peers are grappling with customer account management issues and how we help them stay focused.